Do you regularly shop at your farmer’s market? I try to make it to at least one market a week but was surprised to learn that a few of my local markets were selling warehouse produce. I thought by going to the local market I would be going more “green” and supporting local farmers. However, when one market started to require signs showing where each item was from I was shocked to see how far many of the products had been brought in from.
What is warehouse produce?
Large farms will sell their produce in bulk to third-party distributors. These distributors will ship in produce from all over and then resell it to grocery stores or possibly people who are going to resell it on the side of the road or farmer’s market. This doesn’t by any means make the produce “bad.” It is the same produce you get at your local store. The reason I call it out is only because I think it’s important to stay informed about where your food is coming from. It can also be important if you are attending the farmer’s market to support local farming.
How can I know where my food is coming from?
I have a few easy ways of assuring what I am buying is local.
Do some quick research on your local markets. Many markets, especially the larger ones have great websites and people you can call and talk to about their market.
- Do they have a policy that food must be local?
- Do they check into the farmers that are selling at their market? Many markets have started visiting the local farms each year to assure quality and publish what they find.
Talk to the people working at the markets.
- Simply ask where their products are from and how they are grown. This is a great way to find out their growing practices and policies. If they don’t know or seem unwilling to share I always take this as a sign that I should move to a different seller. I have found that a good farmer will be more than willing to share with you. In addition, many times they can have great tips for your home garden too.
Check on why they have off-season products.
- Are they selling tomatoes in April and you live in an area that typically doesn’t have tomatoes until June or July? This could be a sign that it’s time to ask where and how they are grown. I have local farmers who grow in greenhouses so they have some items that seem a bit off for the season, but just by asking I can find that out.
Visiting your favorite farmers
Before partnering with a farmer on a large bulk purchase, I like to visit their farm. I have visited the farms that I participate in a CSA with, purchase milk from, and purchase meat from. If you don’t think this is worthwhile, I would highly encourage you to rethink that. It has been fun and educational for me and I really feel like I get so much out of meeting my farmers and visiting their farms. On one trip up to my dairy farmer, he invited me into the barn to meet a one-day old calf! I have also watched as my CSA items were harvested and took them home to cook that day. I’ve even picked up eggs while watching the chickens roam free and eat bugs.
The farms aren’t always conveniently located and may require a bit of a drive. However, when you come home with fresh dairy, eggs, veggies and meat that you cook and eat that day, you’ll be sold. I usually pay less and enjoy better quality by finding great local farmers and buying regularly from them.